One of our discussion questions last night caught my attention. In order to answer it, I had to think back to about 30 years ago when I first met Cheri. The question was “How have your ideas about love changed as you’ve gone from dating to engagement to marriage?”
After our first date, I never even considered dating anyone else. There was just something about her that made me stop in my tracks and say “Wow!” She was stunningly beautiful, extremely smart, and she seemed to like me. I spent every moment with her that I could, because I wanted to get to know her. But looking back at that phase of our life, I would probably say that my focus was more on what it was about her that made me happy, rather than the other way around.
After three years of dating, I officially proposed with a diamond ring. I had asked her a number of times, just to see what she would say, and her response was always “Where’s the ring?” That was assuring, because she never said “no”. She always left the door open for when she knew we were ready to commit to each other. When I did officially propose, she asked “Where’s the ring?” and held out her hand, just as she always did. This time, I slipped the ring on her finger, and she said yes!
We were apart for most of the year that we were engaged. I graduated just a few weeks after we made it official, and Cheri was still in school. But during that year, we were committed to each other. We wanted to get married, and we were determined that nothing would come between us or stand in our way.
Since we’ve been married, my focus has changed from what it is about Cheri that makes me happy to what can I do for her, not only to make her happy, but to make her feel secure in my love. Sometimes it means putting my focus completely on her, but it often means paying attention to what I’m doing. Am I growing in my relationship with God, and thereby encouraging her to grow as well? Am I responding with kindness, or am I acting selfishly when things don't go my way? Am I willing to do whatever I need to do so that she will be fulfilled?
We all are fallen creatures, but by God’s grace, we have the ability to love. Paul defines love in this way:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends … faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 ESV
Does this describe the love you have for your spouse? For others? This is true love. It takes effort. It means making someone else more important than yourself. It’s not always easy, but it’s always possible!